It wasn’t long after the first edition of Juniper Crescent came out that I got to meet Quincy J. Allen at a convention. We shook hands, admired each other’s steampunk costumes, and right from the start, I looked up to him. Literally. He’s tall, and looks like the leader of a steampunk biker gang, but he was really cool to talk to, and not nearly as imposing as he looks. That, and he’s been in several anthologies for writing Steampunk (including a set of Steampunk fairy tales, plus has a novel out, plus has another he’s working on. Neglect the fact that the genre alone is awesome, he’s established himself in an industry that I’m still struggling to get into.
Well, today is a great day because he decided to take some time here on my site. I didn’t give him any cues or direction to go on, just said go for it. So, here it is.
A friend of mine texted me today with the phrase, “You are so busy. How do you do it?” It really got me to thinking. The first thing that leapt to mind was that I haven’t really accomplished much—at least, not in my own eyes. Then I started thinking about the things I’m working on, the things on the horizon before me, and the one behind.
The truth is everything I’ve been doing for the past three years—nearly four—has been for a singular purpose. The day job I took (gifted upon me from the Lords of Olympus, to be honest), the anthologies I produced, the novel I wrote, the novels I’m writing, the contests I’ve entered, the clients I garner every now and again to pay for the cons, conferences and events I go to… all of them have been for one reason.
I want a book deal and then a string of book deals more than anything I’ve ever wanted in my life. I actually, literally, woke up one morning—after getting laid off an IT job—wondering what on Earth I was going to do with the rest of my life. The answer scared the hell out of me. Like it says in the bio on my website, I was raised with the phrase “Ya wanna be a starving artist the rest of your life?”
That first post-layoff morning, a severance check in my hand, six months of life therein, and the realization that I was 42 and not as good as the younger guys coming into the industry, was about as sobering a moment as I’ve had in this existence.
So, there I was, pondering my future, with 42 years of “wisdom” stacked behind me (and yes, that’s said with tongue firmly in cheek), and I could come up with only one thing. I’m half-way to the grave, and if I’m gonna go, I plan on dying happy. I may die eating cat food, living in three-hundred-square-foot studio apartment, but by all the gods dreamt of by man, I’m going to die happy.
That left only one thing for me to chase as I make my way into the hereafter: writing. I love the written word. I love books. Not as much as some. More than others. But if you know me, you understand that the very last thing I’ve ever done is compare myself to anyone else. I went to the Frank Sinatra school of self-actualization. I’m going do it my way and take the consequences standing up.
From my vantage point, halfway twixt birth and death, that’s probably the best advice I can give to anyone… and the worst. I picked a hard business to break into, and I did it at an age where most of my peers are a decade or two younger than me… and on the day I set out, I was rusty as hell. I’m learning the ropes as I go along, and I’m breaking them in places… sometimes deliberately, sometimes to make a point, sometimes because I run across an arbitrary rule that sticks in my craw. What can I say? I’m like that.
The take-away here for anyone starting out in this business is to dig your heels in and don’t quit. Ever. For anyone. I had plenty of naysayers in that first year after I started down the path of becoming an author. Plenty.
I ignored them.
I’ve had pitfalls and made mistakes. I’ve stepped on my own junk more than once, and I’m sure to do it again. But I won’t quit. And now that I have at least a few successes behind me, those very same naysayers are looking at me with something very different in their eyes. I haven’t made the cut yet. I don’t have a book deal, and it may be years before I do. But those people who did their best to lay their own fears on me have cast them aside. I’ve earned at least a modicum of respect in their eyes, and that, up to this point, anyway, is worth the price of admission… worth the hours and labors and challenges that I continue to face.
You have to understand, the writing business—and it is a business—is equal parts skill, luck, carousing, and toughing it out. If you can figure that out before you give up, then you have a real shot… and that’s all anyone can guarantee. You have a shot. You may do everything right and still not get struck by lightning, but at least you can go to the grave knowing that you didn’t give up on your dream.
As the man said, “The future is now.”